Those of us who already are believers and are pet owners know that pets are good for the soul. Science is just catching on and is starting to reflect that pets provide us with a lot more than laughs and love. One study, published in 1980, found that heart attack patients who owned pets lived longer than those who didn’t. Another study found that petting a dog can lower blood pressure.
Some of the other benefits of pet ownership may include:
- Reducing stress and anxiety
- Reduce feelings of isolation or alienation
- Helping cope with serious illness or death
- Encouraging participation in sports and hobbies
- Less frequent visits to the doctor
- Lowering triglyceride and cholesterol levels
- Increasing exercise
- The tactile stimulation involved in animal companionship provides a pleasurable form of neurological stimulation that encourages relaxation and well-being
- The experience of being emotionally engaged in a relationship with a companion animal may foster growth in emotional maturity and self-awareness
- Victims of trauma may perceive animals as less threatening than people and may be instrumental in the redevelopment of trust in others
- Companion animals encourage social interaction among the people around them, promoting a more interactive social environment
That’s pretty good evidence toward the benefit of having a pet in your life! In addition, having a pet seems to aid in reducing pain, although more research is needed on why this happens.
At the University of Missouri, the College of Veterinary Medicine have conducted studies focusing on the fact that interacting with animals can increase people’s level of the hormone oxytocin which help us feel happy and trusting. There may also be other health benefits.
In working with veterans, I have seen the power of owning and developing a relationship with an animal work wonders. It doesn’t seem to matter whether it’s a dog, cat, horse or other less- traditional animal. What matters is the pet can be trusted, and will love and accept the owner regardless of anything that’s happened in the past.